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News and resources regarding COVID-19

News 12.1.20: IA Governor C-19 Update, Mental Health Help, Record Hospitalizations and More



Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says November brought the biggest surge of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Reynolds says the first week of the month saw 28,000 new cases with a positivity rate of 32%.  The second week 30,000 new cases and a positivity rate of about 29%.

Those numbers were cut in half the week of Thanksgiving.  Reynolds says even though no testing was done on Thanksgiving Day, the rest of the week experienced more testing than ever before.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the mitigation efforts in place are doing what they are intend to do to decrease the spread of the virus and get it into a more manageable level.”

Today, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 24 additional deaths and more than 1,900 new cases. 

Reynolds highlighted that hospitalizations are down across the state, but not in Woodbury County.  Siouxland District Health recorded 108 total patients at Sioux City’s two hospitals. That is an all-time high beating yesterday’s record level of 102.  

Credit Siouxland District Health Department

Siouxland Public Media reached out to the local medical facilities.  The Chief Medical Officer at MercyOne will do an interview in the new few days. 

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s released this statement:

“Similar to other hospitals, UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s has been operating near capacity for the past few weeks, but we continue to accept patients. Due to the nature of providing care, our hospital inpatient numbers are fluid and frequently fluctuate as patients get discharged or are transferred to another unit. We remain fiercely committed to taking care of the Siouxland community during this time of great uncertainty.  It’s critical for the community to double down and diligently practice COVID-19 safety measures – wear a mask, wash your hands, get a flu shot, and just stay home. We know it’s extremely difficult, but we truly cannot do this without your help. In the meantime, we will continue taking care of our community the way we know – and love – to do.

As we approach the holidays and the feelings of gratefulness that come with this time of year, we ask you to please take a moment to thank the health care workers in your life. They continue to bear the brunt of this surge and are working non-stop, exhausted and heartbroken, to care for you, your friends and your family during this time of great uncertainty.”

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says even though recent efforts to slow the spread of the virus have appeared to work she says Iowans still need to stay vigilant and follow health recommendations.

“While the virus is a threat to our physical health, living with its uncertainty can also affect our mental health.”

The Governor says from March to September there were 319 suicides in Iowa, a number higher than the last two years.

“People are waiting longer to seek help and are often in crisis mode when they do.”

The website covidrecoveryIowa.org provides resources for people who are experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental issues.

The program funded through the Iowa COVID Recovery Grant paid for 105 staff members.  They provide free virtual counseling and other support, including parenting tips.

Karen Hyatt is an emergency mental health specialist with the Iowa Department of Human Services.

“There’s no shame in asking for help and that’s the main message.  Everything listening to this probably has some sort of anxiety and we want to find you the help that you need.”

As for a vaccine, Reynolds is optimistic Iowa will see one before the end of the year.  However, the state is still waiting for word from the CDC.  She also added test capacity has doubled for TestIowa locations and for the state Hygienic Lab when it comes to processing tests.

The Governor also addressed education during the news briefing from Des Moines.  She says her number one goal is to keep children in the classroom since many have school as their only source for socialization and even meals.  Some schools did turn to virtual learning as a temporary solution.

“Not only are they falling behind but some of these kids haven’t had a touch in nine months, it’s unconscionable to think about that. They need the social and emotional growth.  That’s where they get a hot meal.”   

The Governor says she will provide more information about schools during her next news conference on Thursday at 11 a.m.

More from the Associated Press:

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says there are no plans to use millions of dollars of unused state surplus money to help businesses and families experiencing financial stress due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some other states have approved state funding aid or are considering it. Reynolds said Tuesday there isn't enough state money. She placed the burden on Congress to reach an agreement.

Public health data in Iowa shows signs that the coronavirus infection rate is slowing but the number of people hospitalized and dying with COVID-19 remains high. Some of the ease in case positivity could be due to reduced testing around the Thanksgiving holiday. Some hospital officials were bracing for another surge in positive tests and illness due to Thanksgiving family gatherings. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say Iowa’s positivity rate declined in the past two weeks but remains third in the nation at 41.24%. The average of daily deaths continues to climb. Iowa posted 24 deaths and 1,906 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. Hospitals reported 1,172 patients with COVID-19, up 10 from the day before.

Nebraska has passed the grim milestone of 1,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 remains high in the state. Officials reported 29 new deaths Monday to give the state 1,018 total since the pandemic began.

The Nebraska Capitol won’t be hosting all of its usual holiday celebrations this year to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The annual tuba and horn concerts normally scheduled in December won’t be held this year. The Capitol tree-lighting ceremony has been canceled this year as well. Instead, the Office of the Capitol Commission said it plans to illuminate two large fir trees at the base of the Capitol’s outdoor north plaza. The Capitol will remain open for tours except on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. The commission may limit tour group sizes to 10 people.

The South Dakota Department of Health has hired a former press secretary from President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign to serve as its communications director. The health department’s former spokesman, Derrick Haskins, has handled media relations throughout the pandemic, but resigned on Nov. 6. He will be replaced by Daniel Bucheli, who is slated to begin the role on Dec. 9. The health department said Bucheli was hired after two rounds of interviews. He worked as a deputy press secretary for Trump’s reelection campaign from May 2019 to January of this year.

A new monthly survey of business leaders in nine Midwest and Plains states suggests faltering confidence in the region's economy. After climbing every month since bottoming out in April, the overall index of the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions survey fell to 69.0 in November from October’s 70.2. Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth, while a score below 50 suggests recession. Meanwhile, the survey's confidence index looking ahead six months plummeted 20 points to 50.0 this month from October’s 70.4. The monthly survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Morningside College announced its annual Jazz Festival will not be held in-person due to COVID-19.  So, far no decision has been made on a potential move to a virtual event.  The 2022 Morningside Jazz Festival has been scheduled for February 9th through the 11th.  The competition has been a staple at the Sioux City College for 49 years.

News release from Morningside College:

Morningside’s 2021 Jazz Festival postponed

Sioux City, Iowa – The 2021 Morningside Jazz Festival, scheduled to be in its 49th year, will not be held in-person due to the impact of COVID-19 on the Siouxland and Northwestern Iowa communities.

At this time, no decision has been made regarding virtual festival activities for 2021. If virtual options are scheduled at a later date, information will be made available on morningside.edu and the School of Visual and Performing Arts' social media channels. Like and follow the Morningside College School of Visual and Performing Arts Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MsideArts) for updates.

Jazz music and jazz education have long been a hallmark of Morningside’s music program. Until further notice, Morningside plans to hold the 2022 festival as scheduled on February 9 – 11, 2022. More information about the 2022 festival will be made available as the date nears, and the tentative schedule is below:

·      Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 1A/3A

·      Thursday, February 10, 2022 - 2A

·      Friday, February 11, 2022 - 4A

·      Friday, February 11, 2022, 7 p.m. - Festival Finale Concert

The Morningside College School of Visual and Performing Arts provides immersive opportunities for Morningside students and the Siouxland community to experience the power of music and the fine arts. All Morningside students, regardless of major, can audition and perform in ensembles and productions. Learn more about Morningside’s programs in music, art, and other undergraduate offerings at www.morningside.edu.